The Elf by Catherine Scully
TODAY’S BREW: Tea. I am catching a *#*!! cold.
We are very pleased to offer up the inner workings of Cat Scully, the horror editor for The Horror Writer’s Association Young Adult Blog. She is also a high falutin’ illustrator, and just plain fun writer working to get published like us all. Follow her on Twitter @CatMScully and appreciate her awesomeness on cscullywriter.wordpress.com.
The morning is pallid and the sun is wrapped with grey, wool patchwork clouds. Though it isn’t Christmas morning, one child wakes, then two, and all three race down the hall together searching for their present. Each corner they turn down the hall, into each bedroom, down the stairs and into the living room yields no clues as to where the present has gone. Then they reach the downstairs closet. With a small creak, the door opens, and the coats packed together provide an excellent canopy to shield the present’s tiny face from the sudden burst of light.
The children stare down at his tiny white face, rosy cheeks, and pointed ears.
“The elf came!” the youngest child exclaims, wiping his snotty nose against his sleeve.
“Yes,” says the second. “The elf left us a message.”
“I want to open it!” says the first, stamping her tiny foot.
“But it’s my turn,” the second child protests.
The third and oldest child says nothing, but stares down the elf’s solemn face. He pushes his glasses up his nose and finds that when he looks at the displayed scene of the elf with it’s letter sitting on top a small pile of fake snow in a red basket, that he can’t look into the elf’s eyes. They stare back like the two coals he worries he’ll get for Christmas if he doesn’t brush his teeth, turn in his homework, and play nice with his two sisters. The elf’s smile is turned up in a placid expression that was common to all older dolls and looked more painted than real. There was something about the elf that made the child feel like that smile held a secret it wasn’t willing to tell. The elf’s lips would forever be sealed that way. Smiling. Dead. It unsettled him.
The youngest snatched the letter in the elf’s lap first. “It’s mine Sarah!”
“No, Jenny, give it here!” Sarah said. “It’s my turn. You got it yesterday.”
“No,” Jenny whined. The two wrestled and tumbled until the letter ripped open and a great tear went through the envelope and broke the pages within.
“Now look what you’ve done!” Sarah snatched the card away from Jenny, who started to cry.
“Guys,” the third child said, not taking his eyes from the elf.
Sarah opened the envelope and tried to pull out the piece of paper inside. She shushed Jenny with an angry hiss, who only cried harder.
“Hey guys,” he tried again.
“What Mike?” Sarah said, trying to yell over Jenny’s sobbing shrieks. “What is it?”
“What is that on the elf’s face?”
He pointed to a small spot of liquid that had pooled on the elf’s cheek below its left eye. It sat red, like a small ruby meant for a fairy’s necklace or a doll’s jewelry box. Another drop dripped down and splatted on the elf, this time hitting its little red and white shirt.
Sarah and Mike were so fixated on the dripping red dots that they hadn’t noticed that Jenny had stopped shrieking. She stood behind them, eyes brimming with tears and quietly heaving sobs.
“Where is that coming from?” Mike asked and got down on his hands and knees to look up in the coats.
Sarah slowly opened the letter, which Jenny peaked over on tiptoes to read over her sister’s shoulder. Mike began to part the coats, trying to see what might be causing the dripping. He shoved his hand up between the thick furs and thin, flannel jackets until he hit something wet.
Sarah gasped. “Mike…”
He grabbed the wet thing and yanked. It flopped out into the light.
“Mike,” Sarah yelled. “This… this is blood.”
When he saw what it was he yanked out, Mike screamed. He leapt backwards until he fell into Sarah. The letter fluttered out of her hands and onto the floor. In the center, the open paper read in red-brown letters: “Tonight, you.”
“Oh, God…” Mike said.
“Get off me Mike! What are you…” Sarah started to say, but then saw the thing hanging out of the closet. Her face turned whiter than the snow gently falling outside the window. Flapping skin hung out of the closet like a dirty sleeve. The skin was intact, whole, and a perfect resemblance of a human left arm.
Sarah, Mike, and Jenny sat in horror as they heard a small ping of sound hit the floor. A little silver ring with a modest diamond fell off the small, flat fingertips at the end of the peachy skin sleeve.
A rustle came from beneath the coats as the elf got to his feet with careful determination. Though its face was frozen in permanent smile, a small voice came out like the twinkling of bells and said: